Church Planting 3
EAST KILBRIDE BAPTIST CHURCH
The Lanarkshire Baptist Association and churches at Rutherglen and Cambuslang saw East Kilbride new town developing and sent people into the area to knock on doors and begin to make an impact in the newly born community. After a request to Dr A B Miller, the first (student) pastor was Rev Jim Graham who arrived in April 1954, and his first contact was in a weeknight prayer meeting with around half-a-dozen people.
Meeting in a variety of largely unsuitable buildings (including the kitchen of the Masonic Hall!), there was tremendous encouragement amongst that early and faithful congregation. On 31/5/54 twenty-one members [Twenty-one according to the Souvenir Brochure of 9th April, 1960; twenty-four according to the Silver Jubilee booklet from 1979.] constituted the church with Mr John A Dick representing the Baptist Union of Scotland.
In those days Jim Graham travelled by motorbike from Glasgow to East Kilbride, and conducted his first baptismal service in the baptistery at Blantyre; flu was the result of the return journey to Glasgow on that bike! But these were exciting days, and Jim Graham remembered the quality of commitment made by the few, and this made a lasting impact on this student pastor. Jim moved on in September 1954 when his six-month student pastorate came to an end, and a vacancy committee was formed.
In April 1955, Peter Barber accepted the call to the church, which met in Murray Primary School in those days; Peter was inducted on 4th June 1955 into a church with thirty-six members.
The new church was not afraid to tackle new things, and they became the first Baptist church in Scotland to have a Stewardship Campaign and Vacation Bible school, as well as being involved in the community by the use of the old Church House by the mentally handicapped. Rev Andrew MacRae recalled the early days of the young fellowship meeting in rather dilapidated premises, but having a spirit of ‘confident anticipation of God’s blessing.’
Peter Barber’s preaching and leadership contributed much to the success of the church, and 1958 saw a hall built behind Moncreiff Church, which was then used until their own building was opened on 9th April 1960. The continued growth saw some people who lived in Westwood sent to the Westwood school to begin worship services (1964), and East Kilbride Baptist Church East Mains was soon to be joined by East Kilbride Baptist Church Westwood; and later East Kilbride Baptist Church Calderwood.
These names are very significant, for the vision of Peter Barber was for one East Kilbride Baptist Church with multiple congregations; this was an important deviation from the normal church planting methods which simply produced independent, autonomous Baptist churches.
Westwood was constituted in 1965 with Alex Rodger as minister, and a new building was completed in 1968. Alex Rodger looked back on that time in ministry as an organic rather than an institutional reality, speaking of ‘learning and growing together’ and discovering much about the pilgrim nature of the Christian faith.
There was a great deal of sharing between East Mains and Westwood, and these two linked congregations did a lot together. Alex Calder recalled that each church had a calendar of the other’s activities and they were careful not to have meetings and activities clashing.
Calderwood came into being as doors were knocked at the end of the sixties and start of the seventies, and Rev James Hamilton became minister of Calderwood congregation in 1971. Their building was opened in 1976. The close co-operation and unity of one East Kilbride Baptist church with three congregations was the vision that Peter Barber (‘Mr East Kilbride’) lived for.
As Peter himself wrote for the silver jubilee booklet: “The buildings at East Mains, Westwood and Calderwood are tangible monuments to a people’s sacrifice, living evidence that the congregations loved not in word only, but also in deed. And much of the beauty of this is that it has been achieved together.”
The united church scheme in East Kilbride was not easy to establish or maintain, but it had much to commend it as an alternative to Baptist churches in the same town either ignoring one another or competing with one another. In Rev Andrew MacRae’s own words from the silver jubilee magazine of 1979, ‘The story of these 25 years is unique in Scottish Baptist history’ and so was the achievement of a pastor and people committed to venture together for God.